The Beverly Hillbillies is an American sitcom that follows the Clampetts, a simple country family turned millionaires when their backwoods ranch was purchased by the OK Oil Company, as they attempt to navigate the high society of Beverly Hills, California. Hillbillies was picked up by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Television Network in 1962 and was broadcasted Wednesday nights from 9:00
for a majority of its run. Along with NBC, CBS was one of two television networks to dominate the ratings in the 1950s and 60s. The series aired from September 26, 1962 to March 23, 1971, accumulating 9 seasons and total of 274 episodes. The show was created by Paul Henning and was produced by Al Simon, Joseph DePew, and Mark Tuttle. The Beverly Hillbillies enjoyed a wildly successful run at the top of the ratings; the sitcom was the highest rated show on television for its first two seasons, and remained in the Top 20 for 8 seasons. When the series fell out of the Top 30 in 1970-71, it was subsequently cancelled after 9 seasons. Today, Hillbillies is looked upon as one of the most successful television sitcoms of all time.
During the late 1950s and 1960s, a mutlitude of sitcoms was present throughout each network. However, in the early to mid 60s, escapist sitcoms like The Beverly Hillbillies and Bewitched helped to facilitate a shift away from typical family sitcoms like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver that portrayed the lives of suburban, nuclear families. As a result, The Beverly Hillbillies was able to distinguish itself from the typical sitcom and achieve mass levels of popularity throughout its 9 season run. Each week, viewers could turn away from the horrors of the Vietnam War and other current events to escape to Beverly Hills, where the Clampetts were attempting to maneuver their way through the complexities of the high life. The show eventually led to several copies, most notably Green Acres, which depicted an alternative riches-to-rags story. The show was so successful enough to reach syndication, and was also remade into a theatrical film in 1993 by 20th Century Fox.
Episode 1 of The Beverly Hillbillies entitled “The Clampetts Strike Oil” aired on September 26, 1962 and it sets up most of what the audience would become accustomed to in subsequent episodes. The episode opens in the backwoods countryside where the audience is introduced to well-intentioned father Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebson), shotgun wielding “Granny” (Irene Ryan), Jed’s daughter Elly Clampett (Donna Douglas), and finally Jed’s simple-minded nephew Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr.). When a surveyor from the OK Oil Company visits their home and tells them that they are sitting on rich land, the family displays their country naiveté as they attempt to comprehend the concept of telephones and helicopters. The Clampetts are compensated by way of 25 million dollars for their oil rich land, and come to the decision to relocate to Beverly Hills. At the end of the episode, cultures clash and the audience gets a taste of what’s to come in future episodes, as the Clampetts mistake their new gated mansion for a prison and are thrown in jail themselves. Although the premise may seem unsophisticated at the surface, the episode functions as a critique of not only the backwoods country values but also the strange practices and snobbery of high society, both of which would be prominent throughout the shows run.